I meet the guys in Downbreed - singer Jef Conn, bassist Brian Honeycutt, guitarist Mark Vela and drummer Scott Earley - at Legend's Sports Bar on a Friday a little before they are scheduled to play. Three of the guys show up for the interview.
Guitarist Vela, I'm told, is momentarily occupied and will be there shortly. We wait a few minutes for Vela to arrive. We are entertained by bassist Honeycutt, who is trying to replace an old nose ring with a new one he's just bought.
Deciding to start the interview without Vela, I ask them first about their name. To me it's the most intriguing aspect of the band. Up to that point, I hadn't seen them live or heard their music.
Conn tells me "the name doesn't mean anything. Brian made the comment how you can make a cool name out of anything. He saw the word 'down' in the newspaper and the word 'breed' on the TV. He put them together. Five years later we decided to start using it."
I suspected beforehand maybe it had something to do with Hatebreed, a band I don't really like much other than their name, which is likewise intriguing.
I was wrong, however.
"We were Downbreed a long time before any of us had heard of Hatebreed," Conn says. "We were Downbreed two years before Hatebreed started getting national recognition. There's so many other 'breed' type bands right now."
Noting the band's website, www.downbreed.com, which makes use of Macromedia Flash to deliver an animated, but dark experience, I ask about the band's logo - which prominently figures into the web site. Where did it come from?
"You mean this logo?" Conn asks, proceeding to roll up a sleeve. He reveals the logo I remember from the website, tattooed in black ink on his forearm.
Yeah, that one.
He tells me he drew it himself and later decided to have it tattooed on his body. I get them talking about their music. At this point Vela has arrived.
"It's changed compared to what it was in the beginning," says Honeycutt. "It has a lot more melody to it. It's still intense, but it has dynamics now. It has feeling."
"I sing more," says Conn.
"When we first started it was just a straight-ahead punk hard core sound," says Earley.
"It's still heavy, but we've dived into some more diverse music," says Vela.
Conn says that the music used to be "just as heavy as it could be, as loud as it could be from beginning to end. It was abrasive."
Songs on the band's new EP, New Blood, New Pain, reveal a melodic but harsh sound. Guitarist Vela incorporates - through the use of a chorus-effect pedal - plenty of melody into his edgy riffs. Conn opts to sing more or less in a straightforward manner. He doesn't dive into too much screaming as many of his contemporaries in the band's genre do.
Downbreed also have two full-length albums, and are currently working on a third.
The albums To the Core and The Killswitch Collective are available around town and have been selling fairly well, Conn says.
I ask them why they play the style of music they play. The question is not meant as rhetoric, but it is at first taken as such.
Momentarily, the band warms up to the question.
"It gives you a real good adrenaline rush," says Earley.
"For me this is what I am about," says Honeycutt. "This is where I am. It comes from my heart. This is how I feel I can express myself the best."
A lot of Fort Wayne bands are getting a lot of attention from record labels these days. This is something that impresses me. I've met a lot of local bands through my experiences writing for whatzup. I think all of the bands I've met have been dedicated and in love with playing music. I think any one of these bands that gets signed to a major label and is given the chance to make a huge success out of their music is more than deserving of that chance.
Is there a record deal in Downbreed's future?
"We've played a couple of showcases that came through the area," says Conn. "As far as one on one (with record label recruiters), the showcases were a convention-like deal. If they liked you, they'd talk to you. We had a few talk to us. It's just a matter of doing it over and over until they take notice. We had interest from Interscope, Sony and Road Runner.
"Just to hear those guys say they dig it is a cool incentive. It means we're doing something right. We're going to keep on doing what we do best. But until it happens I don't think any of us are going to get our hopes up," he adds.
Downbreed affirm some of the rumors I've heard about the local hard core music scene.
"There's not much support for the metal scene,' Conn says. "It's all about the pop music and what everybody thinks is going to get signed. Plus, when national acts come through at Piere's they don't stick any metal bands to open up for them - except the Elvis and Hammer Band and Gript. The local bands around town don't get any support or exposure."
"Both those bands suck, to be honest," Vela says.
"The best support really is from 102.3," says Honeycutt. "But they only support the popular stuff out there now."
"That's not necessarily a bad thing, but there's got to be room for everyone," says Earley. "We represent a different side."
"If bars were smart, though, they'd book us more," adds Vela. "Every where we go, bars always say Downbreed fans are the best tippers because they drink more."
Downbreed will be playing at 10 p.m. Sunday, March 17, at Sneaky Pete's with Supercharger Extacy and at 10 p.m. March 29 at Legend's Sports Bar with Suffocate.
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